Ep538: Rick Gilbert – Most Likely Nobody Will Buy Your Book

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Quick take

BIO: Rick is an author of several books and performs one-man shows, bringing alive the stories in his books.

STORY: Rick spent $22,000 to produce his first audiobook and made just $500 in sales.

LEARNING: Accept that there’s most likely nobody who will buy your book. Figure out how to get your product to the market.


“The chances of you doing your memoir and anybody cares about it are almost zero.”

Rick Gilbert


Guest profile

Rick Gilbert is the retired founder of PowerSpeaking, Inc, one of Silicon Valley’s most successful communication and training companies. Before founding PSI in 1985, Rick was a psychologist and held management positions at HP and Amdahl. Rick is an author of several books and performs One-Man shows, bringing alive the stories in his books. His latest book is an audiobook, Sharing Our Stories, featuring interviews with 65 people, including Gloria Steinem, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Brubeck, Anna Eshoo, and Don Garlits.

Worst investment ever

It took Rick about a year and a half to put his audiobook together. Because he didn’t understand the technology of audiobooks, he hired people, including lots of editors, to help him with it. Rick ended up spending $22,000 on that book. Over six months, Rick sold 50 copies, only selling at $10 each. So for his $22,000 investment, he made 500 bucks.

Lessons learned

  • If you still want to write your book, accept that there’s most likely nobody who will buy it.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • You may have a great idea, but it remains a hobby, interest, and passion if you haven’t figured out a way to get it to the market. You’ve got to figure out how to get it to the market to sell that idea.
  • Start bringing your product to the market now. Write a chapter, share it, see what happens, and you’ll grab the marketplace before you make the entire investment.

Actionable advice

Do your homework so that you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Rick’s goal for the next 12 months is to stop worrying about the future and live in the moment.


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risks but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives to reduce risk in your life, go to my worst investment ever.com today and take the risk reduction assessment I created from a lessons I've learned from more than 500 guests. Fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a star Arts Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Rick Gilbert, Rick, are you ready to join the mission?

Rick Gilbert 00:42
Looking forward to it.

Andrew Stotz 00:44
I am looking forward to two In fact, we just had an interesting conversation before we turned on the about some of your interviews, and I'm looking forward to learning more about you but let me introduce you to the audience. Rick Gilbert is the retired pot founder of power speaking Inc, one of Silicon Valley's most successful communication and training companies. Prior to founding psi in 1985. Rick was a psychologist and held management positions at HP and Amdahl. Rick is an author of several books and performs one man shows bringing alive the stories in his books. His latest book is an audio book sharing our stories featuring interviews and interviews with 65 people, including Gloria Steinman, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Brubeck, en su, and Don Garlits. Wow, Rick, take a minute and tell us about the value that you bring to this world.

Rick Gilbert 01:43
I just am turning 83. And, of course, over those years, I have gone this way and that way in lots of different directions. But one of the themes that has been in my life is a lot of lack of self confidence, low self esteem as I started out, and my life started out in psychotherapy, I was in therapy when I was 1617 years old. And back in the 1950s, not many kids that were teenagers went to therapy. And if they did, they certainly didn't talk about it. That experience helped me to understand a little more about myself and take some more risks and get a little more confidence. And as I've gone along, my business was helping people become confident as public speakers in front of meetings in front of business settings. So I think the theme has been because it was for me, how do I go from this trembling little child in the sixth grade? Who was so insecure to somebody who now can help other people and show some guidelines for how do you build that confidence. And my theme for my business is letter rip. And the idea with that is, you know, we worry too much about what other people are going to think or am I going to fail, I can't possibly do this. And so I'm just encouraging people to the letter rip, go for it. Damn the torpedoes. And I guess that's what I have to offer.

Andrew Stotz 03:07
Well, that's exciting. I love that letter rip. I guess you were born in 1938, then 3939. Okay, so thinking about going back in time, you know, I think a lot of us even you know, young people today feel insecurities. And those insecurities come from the environment, they come from family, they come from friends, what was it that was driving you way back in those days in the 40s? And the 50s? That got you to a point that you were feeling not that confident?

Rick Gilbert 03:40
You know, I because psychologists always talk about nurture, nature nurture, you know, is it genetics, or is it your environment? And I don't know about the genetics part, although I'm 83. So I must have be doing something right? In the genetics part. But I think both my parents were insecure, they would have an alcohol problem in the family. My father lived through the Depression. And he talked to me about that all the time. It was always that you don't you don't appreciate the value of money. And my mother was very insecure about what other people thought about her. And so I guess I took all that in and I became unsure of myself quite a bit because of it.

Andrew Stotz 04:20
And I guess when you think about it, it may have worked to help them survive at that time, but what they were implanting in you was not necessarily the tools that were going to help in the booming 50s and 60s or whatever that was as things were starting to develop in the world and it was a very different world.

Rick Gilbert 04:36
Well, and you're right in the 50s. It was actually one of the best times for our country ever economically. In fact, there was a survey done said the best year in the United States history was 1957 happens to be the year I graduated from high school. So maybe I had a few things going for

Andrew Stotz 04:54
me. It goes downhill from here, but it 57 was the best One year

Rick Gilbert 05:00
from now, this is our worst investment, remember, so it's got to go downhill.

Andrew Stotz 05:04
Exactly. Well, that's, that's fascinating. Could you just talk just briefly about your interviews, maybe you could just give us a picture of that and tell us where we can get access to the audio book. And just give us a little bit more on that? Sure.

Rick Gilbert 05:18
Because I was in the speech communication business in Silicon Valley. And I worked a lot with executives. In fact, I put a book out called speaking up surviving executive presentations. And a lot of this was came from my doing in person interviews with CEOs. So I had this huge bunch of interviews that I've done over the years, I'd been in Toastmasters for a long time, I'd been in the National Speakers Association. So I'd done a lot of interviewing. And pretty soon this idea came along, somebody said, why don't you do an audio book, I thought, well, of course, I've got these interviews there. And so I started putting this stuff together. And by the time I was through with it, I had heard from 65 different people, including the famous ones that you mentioned. But more than that, just ordinary people, musicians, athletes, doctors, even a street street salesperson selling her hats in the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, were just a lot of really interesting people. So what I did for the book is I took all of that together, I'm a kind of spaghetti on the wall person, I don't know where it's gonna go until I sort of see it in front of me. And, and so what it turned out to be was people talking about their life experiences. The book is called sharing our stories, tales of resilience and renewal. And it's about people talking about the highs and lows in their lives. So the book is divided into childhood, adulthood, and then elderhood. And everybody comes in and says, what they want to say about it, they're all over the map with this. And some of the things are funny. Some of them are extremely insightful. And it's just been an honor for me to listen to people. You may remember a guy from Chicago called Studs Terkel, and he would interview people on the street. And I sort of feel like, I'm a junior version of Studs Terkel, and I just love pulling out my iPhone, we have these amazing, amazing tools that that can let us do anything, we just sit down with grandma, or sit down with somebody you meet on the street corner and just tell me about your life. what's worked, what hasn't worked? What advice would you have the mentors you had along the way? It's just it's been a wonderful experience.

Andrew Stotz 07:31
And where can we get access to that?

Rick Gilbert 07:34
At my webpage? Well, it's no, it's not on Amazon, my webpage, okay, which is Rick gilbert.net. Net,

Andrew Stotz 07:40
okay. And I'll have that in the shownotes. Ladies, you can go there and get that. And I think my mom's at three in. She's living with me here in Bangkok, Thailand. And so I think, I think she's going to really enjoy that. And one last thing before we move on to the big question of the day, is for those listeners out there, you know, hearing about insecurities in youth and all that, truthfully, as I've gotten older, I realize we're all full of that. Even the most confident person you thought was amazing in university or high school or whatever, they were full of the insecurities. So I think that, you know, one of the lessons I've learned is what a counselor said to me when I was 17. He said, Don't compare your insides to others people's outsides. And that helped that really helped me to think, okay, everybody's even me, I'm presenting a facade, you know, I'm down, I have a hard day, I feel sad, I feel depressed, I feel scared. But I'm gonna show up and bring my best. And we all do that. And so the point is, is that never compare your insides to other people's outsides. And hats off to you at that age for you know, getting the therapy that's

Rick Gilbert 08:52
so that fits so well. I love that quote. But one of the things I found along the way not to bring it too much optimism into our conversation on the worst investment. But there's been a lot of research that shows that over the course of our lives, mostly as children, we're fairly happy. And then we get into the middle years and things go in the tank and we're not so happy there's divorces and jobs and you know, stress and pressure and kids and then as we retire we get happy again. So it's a little bit like a U shaped curve, we tend to be happy pretty much in childhood and then assuming you have enough money and you're not homeless, but that would fit things tend to get better as we get older, which I found quite amazing. Quite it's

Andrew Stotz 09:37
it's fascinating because when you think about youth, you know really at when you're very young, everything's new and you know, you just got all this positive energy and then all of a sudden, Mom and Dad scream at each other. And or mom and dad get divorced and it's your first time trying to handle this without the tools that we have as we are older. And it's just a shock to the system. No one under, you know, we all face these things, you know, a friend betrays you, and you're really hurt, you've never experienced that before, and it sets you up. And so it is pretty interesting to think about kind of how, and then what coping mechanisms that you develop over time. And then I would say that, you know, to really get to actualization of kind of realizing who you are, and all that it's kind of breaking through all of those protections and barriers and reactions that you that work to protect you, when you were in pain at a young age, all of a sudden, don't work when you're 18, or 2030, or 40. And you're insecure or whatever. So I think one of the big lessons from this, and this is my thing is to everybody out there is that everybody's insecure, I think there was another great book called awareness by A. I forgot the guy's name, but he was a, I think it was Catholic priests, but he said, we should really introduce each other. Whenever we reduce, introduce each other to each other. However, we'd say that whenever we meet people, we should say, Nice to meet you. I'm an ass and you're in. Great, and on that note,

Rick Gilbert 11:16
on that note? Well, go ahead. i One of the things I've thought about, as you were talking was high school reunions. And I've been quite involved with my high school, Berkeley High School 1957. And, and in my middle years, I mean, everybody was, you know, kind of posturing. And, you know, I've got this job, and I've got this money. And, and, and as we've gone along now, people are saying, wow, you know, you're really a cool person. Why didn't I know you in high school? I'm so sorry. We didn't fact we have a zoom group. We have every two weeks, our high school group that we meet on Zoom, and people talk about religion and sex, and there's their children and death of their parents. And you know what their hope is just amazing. People are opening up in our elder years in ways that we never would have done in high school. We just couldn't have done it. And it's so I think all of us feel so much nurturing for this little zoom group that we have every couple of

Andrew Stotz 12:08
weeks. That is fascinating. And, you know, my number one fan is listening. That's my mom. And as I said, she's 83. In fact, we've recently she's reconnected with a friend from high school. And now it made me thinking that they should start that Zoom group. That's a great idea. Yep. And that, in my case, I was in high school, basically, I, I got seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol and ended up in three different rehabs and basically missed the senior year of my high school. And so I kind of faded off the map. And whatever people remembered of me was, I was definitely least likely to succeed. And now, as we get together, and we keep in touch to Facebook group and stuff like that, for high school, people like you're amazing. Yeah, funny how things change.

Rick Gilbert 12:57
What do you what was the what helped you turn the corner?

Andrew Stotz 13:01
Well, I think, for me, there was something going on at a time when I was dealing with my drug problem. And alcohol is that was trying to raise the the floor and force young people to suffer the consequences of their youth of their use of their drug use. And my parents did that. And then they got me into treatment. And I went to a seven month treatment center, out in outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where I was living. And basically, it was a reboot, it was just like that feeling when you've just completely rebooted a computer that was really old and hanging and all that. And basically, I applied 12 steps into my life and continue to I've celebrated now, almost 40 years of sobriety. And it just, it really allowed me It forced, they forced me to deal with every emotional baggage.

Rick Gilbert 13:53
Those programs are so powerful. And for you to be able to talk about it so openly is also must be inspirational for others as well.

Andrew Stotz 14:01
Yeah. And when I first came to Thailand, which was 30 years ago, I was already 10 years sober, and I was about 2627 years old. And I didn't talk much about it, I people just knew I didn't drink, but I didn't talk much about it. Because, you know, over here, in in Asia in general, and I have a lot of listeners in Philippines and Thailand and India and all these places, you know, the way that they handled drugs and drug addiction in the old days was just clamped down, more jail time, more and more, you know, just punishment, punishment, punishment, and they never saw some other aspects of it. And so nowadays, it's definitely gotten better when people kind of recognize it. But still, there's still a lot of that stuff here. So I encourage anybody who is dealing with a substance abuse problem with their family, with a friend with themselves. Just type in 12 steps, type in Alcoholics Anonymous type in Narcotics Anonymous type In Overeaters Anonymous, these types of places definitely provide some very, very sound solutions to these types of problems. Well, good. So Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment thinking it will be telling us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, then tell us your story.

Rick Gilbert 15:22
Of course, I thought a lot about this as we got ready for the interview, and I've lost a lot of money in the stock market, I mean, a lot of money for me, not a lot of money. And I kept thinking, you know, what, what's the worst thing and the worst turns out, ironically, to be the book that I'm talking to you about my book called sharing our stories, because the reason I wanted to get on your show was to talk about my book so that people would know where to get it. And I began to realize this book has been a huge investment sink, it's just been a horrible mess. And here's why. It took me about a year and a half to put it together. And I had to get lots of editors and I had to get people to help me with it. I didn't understand the technology of audiobooks. And so I ended up spending $22,000 on that book. Now, so I think, Well, okay, maybe you're selling some of these books. Well, I guess I could sell a book for $10 Online as it is a $10. Purchase. And here's some things that I found out only after I got into this one was, every year at least last year, there was over 60,000 new audio books published. So there's some competition. I'm not well known, even though I've written some other books, I'm new to the audio book, and I'm certainly not a celebrity. And I'm up against people like Matthew McConaughey, who got his new book out. And so that's not going well. And so hang on to your hat. Andrew, I sold over the course of this last six months, hold on, are you ready? You're ready 50 copies. There we go. 50 got 50 big ones. And so for my $22,000 investment, I've made 500 bucks. Now, the good news is my tax person, my CPA, she says well, let's put the expenses together. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna have some of that reduced on my taxes. Because I formed this as a real company. I mean, I've got a credit card and a business license and a doing business. So legitimately, I can count the losses. But you know, I was so excited about this. And I was so looking forward, and I would send out stories to people and let them know, because the stories can be sent a small audio clips, even some are small enough to go on an email. So something about fear or, you know, mentors or inspiration, anything, I just send these little things. And I get wonderful reviews of the 50 people who bought the thing. I know every one of them. So they're all my friends and my relatives. And I'm just trying to say, now how do I get beyond this so that people that I, there are strangers buy this book, but the people who have bought it, they love it. I mean, the responses have just been great. But it's not going anywhere. And so the solution I came was I finally ended up putting them on thumb drives. So I've got this book on all flash drive, which is much easier for many people than trying to download it from the internet and put it on your phone. So I'll just go around to people and give it to them. Don't just give them that flash drive. Then I have a little booklet called the listeners guide that tells them what it's about. And so that's where we are with it. And I'm sure not sorry. I did it.

Andrew Stotz 18:40
Yeah, yeah. So how would you summarize the lessons that you learned from this?

Rick Gilbert 18:46
Years ago, I used to say, be a pessimist. And I made up this theory on my own. I said, I think pessimists are happier in life than optimists. Because optimists are always disappointed. pessimists are never disappointed. and damned if a couple of years ago, there was actually a psychological study done on this. It was published in some journal that said that very thing. And so I guess I would, I would urge people to stop with the happy talk, and embrace the dark side and become a bit of a pessimist. And if you still want to write your book, realize that there's most likely nobody's going to buy it. And so many people I've been in these writing classes, people are writing their memoirs. Do you know I have such a hard childhood and I was abused and blah, blah. And have you ever written a book before? No. Have you ever written an article as appeared in a newspaper magazine? No. But I'm gonna and they spent years on these things. And then it goes nowhere, and it's an awful disappointment. So I guess my advice would be, if you enjoy writing, and I do, then then Have at it but but give up the idea that anybody is going to buy it or that you're going to have any luck with it in the marketplace, the chances of you doing your memoir, and that anybody's going to care about it are almost zero.

Andrew Stotz 20:12
Yeah, the chances of you're going to do your memoir, and it's going to end up on the shelf. Like that I have a stack of 700 books. But out of these books, there's this little little area that I say, books that changed my life. And one of them is a memoir, and it's the memoir of Ulysses S. Grant. Wow. And the way he wrote it, and so many stuff, so many things about that, you know, well, I, you know, my memoir is not going to be on anybody's shelf. So maybe I'll share a couple of things. I mean, one of the things that this made me think of is, you know, when I did my first book, and I wrote it in i plus published onto Amazon. And when I press publish on Amazon, I was like, done, man, that was hard. I mean, that took me months to get this thing, right, and get it edited. And up there, and I pressed that button, and I thought done. And I thought, you know, 95% on now it's just, you know, get it up on the shelf, and it'll sell. And I didn't realize I was only 5% done. The other 95% is the marketing of it. And then you just realize, damn, you know, marketing is so hard, right reach, and it's getting harder and harder to reach the market in the platforms, like you say, 60,000 audio books coming out. Yeah, it's just like the it is hard. So I think my first takeaway from your discussion is, you know, for the listeners out there, when you're in, it's not just a book, it's your idea, I got a great idea, this is going to be great. The point is, it is it may be a great idea. But if you haven't figured out a way to get it to the market, you've got nothing, and you've got a hobby, you've got an interest, you've got a passion, you know, that's fantastic. But if you think you're going to sell it, you've got to figure out how to get it to the market. So that's kind of a big takeaway, first of all,

Rick Gilbert 22:05
well, I couldn't agree more and, and I have zero interest in learning all these social media skills. I mean, I can barely handle my email. And then somebody puts me on Facebook, I know how does this work. And so I number one, I don't want to learn it, I'm too damn too old, I'd rather stay in my garden and work with my plants, or write other stuff. And I don't have the money, and I don't want to spend the money to hire somebody to do it. So I have come to the conclusion that my book is going to sit on the shelf and my 50 friends are going to enjoy my hope. But the other problem is what's interesting is that a lot of people don't even know how to use a thumb drive. And you know, especially at our age, because my book is really focused on the boomers, you know, the and so that they look at this subject, and they say, Well, what's this for? Look, look on the side of your computer, and there's a little hole in the side of your computer, stick it in there, and it'll show up on your screen. So, so I'm glad I did it. I think it's gonna be great for my daughter to have years from now when she's definitely a little bit my dad really about and so.

Andrew Stotz 23:11
And one other thing I would take away is there's a great book that came out many years ago, not you know, maybe I don't know, 15 years ago, called the lean startup. And it was really about creating a minimum viable product. And it was about bringing that product out to the market. So my second thing that I take away is for the person out there is like, Well, yeah, you know, I understand what you guys were talking about, and you failed at getting it out there. You know, I'm not going to fail like that, okay, if you think you're not going to fail, and you're determined to bring your product, whatever it is the book, your idea, you know, some customized Excel model, or whatever that thing is. start bringing it to the market now. Write a chapter, posted, share it, see what happens. And you'll get before you do the full investment. And that's what our Lean Startup really taught me from studying that.

Rick Gilbert 24:08
Was that it was that author Steve Blank by any chance.

Andrew Stotz 24:11
This was Eric, I think it's Eric Ries. Oh, okay. Right. I'm not sure how to pronounce his last name. Okay. Yeah. So it

Rick Gilbert 24:18
was one of the CEOs we have in the book, is Steve Blank. And he talks a lot about the difference between a big company and a startup. I just thought

Andrew Stotz 24:27
he might Okay, yeah. So those are two things. Now, let me ask you, based upon what you learned from this story, and what you continue to learn what what action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Rick Gilbert 24:41
Well, I think I mentioned it a minute ago about embracing a negative attitude. But I think doing more homework, I was just so smitten with the idea of doing this audio book. I have all these interviews and I'm good on the radio. I love being in front of a microphone. This is going to be a piece of cake. You know, never mind how many were published last year? And what's the chances of an unknown author? So I'd say, Do it, do your homework. And as you say, if you're interested in a hobby, and this is something you'd like to send to your friends at Christmas time or something, go for it. But be aware, you know, be aware of what you're getting yourself into.

Andrew Stotz 25:20
Yeah, another great book is the E Myth by Michael Gerber, where he talks about the entrepreneurial seizure when we get so excited about our idea that the world is just going to be on fire when I put this thing on Amazon or whatever. So that's another good resource. So let's speaking of resource, what is a resource that you'd like to recommend? Well,

Rick Gilbert 25:39
There's a lot, but I'll tell you, the one that I think made a huge difference for me. And this woman is included in my book, because I interviewed her. The name of the book is skills for success. And it's written by a woman called Adele Shealy. She, she, there's, there's, there's these two she really wants she didn't want to she is this is a Dell sheet. And it's called Skills for success. I read that at a time when I was leaving my career as a psychologist and going into industry with Hewlett Packard. And I didn't know anything about business, I didn't know about technology, I thought, These people are going to realize they made a big mistake hiring me. And I read her book, and it just opened up the world. To me, it just said, here's what you do, to get yourself going in a new career or whatever. But the thing that's really great about what she says, the biggest way to predict somebody's success is whether or not they're willing to take risks. And she said, You have to take little risks before you could take big risks. But that just knocked me out. And it helped me a lot. But it also, it helped me understand a lot of the people that I interviewed, because if you look at what they've done in life, they were risk takers. And sometimes it failed. And a lot of times it succeeded. But they weren't. They weren't shrinking violets. They weren't afraid of the world. They got out there. And they said, Well, let her rip.

Andrew Stotz 27:14
Yeah, well, I'll put the link to that book in the show notes, as well as obviously the link to your website. And I suggest that the listeners go there, I'm gonna go to your website and check it out. Let me ask you. Last question, what is your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Rick Gilbert 27:38
To stop worrying about the future and live in the moment. My Garden helps me do that. And of my friends, my Zoom group, my Berkeley high zoom group is people that I care so much about my life. And we all realize that we have very few years left, we're on the downhill side for sure. And just to be in the moment with people and I add my book, in fact, by saying, imagine, imagine the two of us sitting as little children having a lemonade or sitting as adults, having a glass of wine, or sitting as old folks having coffee or tea, and sharing the stories of our lives. What can be more magical and more graceful than that?

Andrew Stotz 28:23
Oh, so, so powerful. And you don't have to wait until you get older, you can start sharing those stories right now. Well, listen, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. If you haven't yet taken the risk reduction assessment, I suggest right now you go to my worst investment ever.com and start building wealth the easy way by reducing risk. As we conclude, Rick, I want to thank you again for joining our mission. On behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Rick Gilbert 29:06
Thanks, Andrew. You're fun to talk to you make it so easy. It drew me out. We could have gone on for hours.

Andrew Stotz 29:13
Amen. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast Hosea Andrew Stotz, saying thank you for joining our mission. And I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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